Ivey says fighting COVID-19 by calling some businesses ‘non-essential’ was ‘a mistake’

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said today that dividing businesses into “essential” and “non-essential” groups in her April “Shelter in Place” order to fight COVID-19 was “a mistake.”

Speaking to the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce via a live video link, Ivey said it “would be an understatement” to say that 2020 hasn’t lived up to expectations. A jobless rate of 2.9 percent at the year’s start is now nearly 10 percent with 585,000 people claiming unemployment compensation, she said.

Her April “Stay at Home” order was focused on “keeping people safe,” Ivey said, and she repeated that “requires that all people practice social distancing, personal hygiene and using face masks.”

“While focused on keeping people safe, this order also unfortunately created a very difficult situation for many of our businesses, both large and small,” Ivey said. “In trying to reduce the number of people interacting with others one of my first Stay at Home orders set out essential and non-essential businesses.

“And that was a mistake,” Ivey said. “I never wanted to create the belief that my administration viewed certain businesses as more important than others. All jobs and all businesses are essential and important to our state.”

Some businesses could not adequately do what was needed -- distancing and face masks -- while operating, Ivey said. “Unfortunately, that was lost in the discussions and some people wanted to pit me against businesses who were called non-essential,” she said. “That name was unfortunate, but I never viewed their function as non-essential.”

Ivey said “it has been very difficult to know what actions will cause what effects in what time frame” with the disease. “How does a governor or any leader know what decisions will bring about what results?” she asked. “Folks, we’ve just never seen a virus like this before.”

Ivey said the Alabama unemployment claims office handled more claims in the first three weeks of the pandemic than in all of 2019. “Today, almost 95 percent of all claims have been paid,” the governor said.

Ivey appealed for unity and working together “as one Alabama.” She cited her talks with the Legislature over how to spend Alabama’s $1.8 billion federal relief from the CARES Act. “While there were some disagreements…,” Ivey said, “my intention remained that this money belonged to the people of Alabama. It was always our goal to get this money back to the people of Alabama in the most expeditious manner possible.”

The governor did not take questions from the group watching via Zoom.

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